Prescription Drug Abuse on the Rise

Prescription Drug Abuse on the Rise

The nonmedical use or abuse of prescription drugs is a serious and growing public health problem in this country. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), an estimated 48 million people (ages 12 and older) have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons in their lifetimes. This represents approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population.

The most commonly abused class of prescription drugs – opioids, depressants, and stimulants – are highly beneficial treatments for a variety of health conditions:

  • Pain relievers enable individuals with chronic pain to lead productive lives
  • Central Nervous System Depressants/Tranquilizers can reduce anxiety and help patients with sleep disorders
  • Stimulants help people with narcolepsy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) focus their attention.

Most people who take prescription medications use them responsibly. But when abused – that is, taken by someone other than the patient for whom the medication was prescribed, or taken in a manner or dosage other than what was prescribed – prescription medications can produce serious adverse health effects, including addiction.

The elderly are among those most vulnerable to prescription drug abuse or misuse because they are prescribed more medications than their younger counterparts. However, it is the street use and the ease of access to these drugs that is alarming local law enforcement and addiction treatment professionals – especially for our youth. According to the 2009 NIDA’s Monitoring the Future survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th-graders, they found that 10 percent of 12th-graders reported using Vicodin without a prescription in the past year, and 5.0 percent reported using OxyContin – making these medications among the most commonly abused prescription drugs by adolescents.

Christine Holmes, Director of Substance Abuse and Specialty Services, states, “The David Lawrence Centers is seeing an ever increasing number of people seeking help for their addiction to prescription medications. The highly addictive nature of these medications combined with the growing number of unethical and illegal pill mills is a deadly combination. Many of our clients are reporting that they begin taking these medications as prescribed by their physicians and quickly find themselves abusing them; often going to multiple doctors (doctor shopping), borrowing medication from family and friends, and sometimes getting them from drug dealers. In July, half of all admissions to both our residential chemical dependency treatment program and detoxification program were for addiction to prescription medication. In the past, the primary drugs were alcohol and cocaine.”

Locally, the problem isn’t just evident based on increased demand by local treatment providers, but by local death statistics caused by prescription drug overdose. As reported in a recent article by Naples Florida Weekly, a report by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission released June 30, shows that prescription medications caused the deaths of 235 people in the Naples, Fort Myers and Port Charlotte area last year. By comparison, heroin and cocaine combined caused 25 deaths. Statewide, prescription drugs caused about three times the number of deaths (3,601) as all other drugs combined, legal or illegal. The report showed that Oxycodone caused more 1,185 deaths in Florida last year – representing more deaths any other type of drug.

These alarming statistics prove not only the prevalence of the problem, but the ultimate danger and risk of overdose of prescription drug abuse and addiction. Recovery is possible and prescription drug abuse can be overcome. David Lawrence Centers provides a variety of substance use treatment programs for children and adults. If you know someone who may need help with prescription drug abuse, call the David Lawrence Centers at 239-455-8500 and help them take the first step to restoring and rebuilding their lives.

NIDA National Institute of Drug Abuse
Naples Florida Weekly

Aug 01, 2010 | Blog

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